Roasting a whole piglet on a spit is much easier than you'd probably think, and vastly more tasty than you can imagine. We roast a pig every year for my sister's birthday right in her backyard in Brooklyn. If we can do it in the middle of New York City, you can probably do it where you are as well. Here are tips on how to shop for a pig, what equipment you'll need, and the roasting process from start to finish.
[Warning: Graphic photos appear after the jump; the more sensitive among SE'rs may want to proceed with caution.]
You Can Do it
If you've wanted to try spit-roasting a pig yourself but thought it might be too much to tackle, we've broken it down into a step-by-step guide over a series of photos here. [Warning: The following photos may upset the more sensitive among you; proceed with caution.]
If you've got to store your piglet overnight, the best way to do it is throw it in the bathtub in a garbage bag like a dead body and cover it in ice. Bathtubs are good insulators, and the ice should keep the pig cool for at least 12 hours.
Split up Spit
A spit is composed of six parts. The main thicker beam is inserted through the anus, along the spine of the pig, and out the mouth. The two-pronged forks are attached once on each side of the pig. The thinner beam is used to keep the pig's feet in place, and the two brackets hold the whole shebang together.
After thoroughly shaving your chilled pig (yes, use a regular Bic disposable razor), insert the main bar through the anus, and all the way up and out of the mouth. If your pig is especially stiff with rigor mortis, you may need a second person handy to help force the mouth open.
Continue to 5 of 18 below.
Wire the Spine
Trying to deal with 50 pounds of dead meat flopping around on the spit is not fun—trust me. To keep the pig more secure, I like to use thick wire to hold the spine in place against the beam. To do so, start by using a sharp knife to make a pair of incisions on either side of the pig's spine, right in the middle of the back. Insert a U-shaped piece of 14 to 16-gauge wire around the beam, and through the holes.
Use a pair of pliers to continue twisting the wire until it is as tight as you can get it. The pig should now be held firmly in place around the beam, and should be fairly evenly balanced no matter what angle the beam is rotated to.
If there are any little curious kids around, now is the time to take cute pictures of them with Porky McSqueel.
Also, assure them that this is all part of the circle of life. Watching the Lion King helps.
No matter what you do, your pig will attract flies. My best advice is to wave them off and act distraught if someone seems disgusted. Otherwise, ignore them—they ain't gonna do nothing to the pig that six hours of roasting can't make right.Continue to 9 of 18 below.
To finish securing the pig, use more wire to strap its trotters to the secondary support beam. I like to wrap the wire once in a figure 8 pattern around the ankles, then twice around the perimeter of the whole get up so that the feet are extra secure. You do not want the feet coming loose in the middle of cooking.
Ring of Fire
Light the first batch of coals in a charcoal chimney in a separate location, then spread them underneath the pig in a circular pattern. The idea is that you want the heat concentrated under the hams and the butt (the shoulder), which are the thickest parts of the pig and take the longest to cook. Avoid placing any coals directly under the belly section, which will drip juices that can catch on fire or smolder if they hit the hot coals.
Start your pig rotating, replenishing the coals by adding fresh ones directly on top of the old ones every thirty minutes or so.
Use briquettes instead of real hardwood, which burns too fast and hot for this application. You'll need about a pound of briquettes per pound of pig, but have extra on hand just in case.
Let the Juices Flow
About 4 or 5 hours into cooking (depending on the size of your porker), you'll notice a torrent of juices gushing out of various holes in the body. That's ok—there's still plenty more in there left un-gushed.
Chichi suggested this year that we place a disposable aluminum pan underneath the center of the pig to catch the juices for later use. That worked swimmingly well.
As the pig approaches it's final half hour (plan on 1.25 hours per 10 pounds of pig), remove the disposable aluminum pan for later use, and add enough coals to form an even layer under the hog (you can go ahead and build the fire right underneath at this point). Once the fire is nice and hot, the goal is to maximize the amount of blistered and bubbled skin like in the photo.
To do this, you'll have to fiddle with the pig, stopping its rotation at various points to expose different areas of the skin to the heat.Continue to 13 of 18 below.
Sauce it Up
I like to offer guests a selection of sauces to choose from when serving the pork. This year we went with four: A Sichuan roasted chili and peanut sauce, a Thai-style pork sauce, a vaguely Spanish salsa verde, and a beautiful sweet and hot tamarind sauce that Chichi made (you'll have to bug her for the recipe).
Click through the link on the bottom of the main story for the first three recipes, which work equally well with any tender pork dish.
Remove the Spit
Set up a carving station by lining a picnic table with aluminum foil. Place the pig directly on it, and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes to allow juices to distribute and so you don't burn your fingers off when it comes time for pickin'. If it's a very cool night out, you'll want to tent it with foil so it doesn't lose too much heat.
Start Carving and Pulling
To serve the pig, you'll need a sharp chef's knife, relatively heat-proof fingers (or a good set of silicone gloves), and a willingness to get very messy.
I find it easiest to start from the hams, removing them with a combination of yanking and cutting (they should come away easily), then pulling the meat off of them with my fingers, working all the way up the pig until you get to the head.
If any patches of skin have failed to bubble and crisp, set them aside—we'll get back to them shortly.
Remember that aluminum pan of juices?
Place your picked meat right back in that pan as you go, tossing them with the juices to add moisture and flavor.
Things should smell extraordinarily delicious at this point, by the way.Continue to 17 of 18 below.
Any pieces of skin that didn't quite crisp up (in this case that included the cheeks and snout) can be placed on a grill set over the remaining hot coals. They should bubble and crackle in no time. Bear in mind that as soon as they start to pustulate, they are good to go, even if they seem pliable—they will crisp up as they cool.
P.S. He who gets the cheeks and belly is a lucky man indeed.
After all the meat's been picked off, pull out the ribs and other bones for people to gnaw on. A good pig roast should end with a lot of full bellies, and nothing but a spinal column left on the carving station.